Buster, Gratitude, Hillbilly Thomism UPDATED

When Buster was pretty small, perhaps three or four years old, a priest asked a rhetorical question during his homily–I don’t remember the question; it might have been “why are we here, today” or something like that–but the boy was determined to answer it, and his hand shot up and remained there, like one long skinny flagpole wavering, while the priest tried to ignore him.

After a while, Fr. Patient–who had baptized Buster and knew him well–sighed and said, “okay, Buster, what’s your answer?”

Sadly, by that time Buster had become more interested in his appendage than in anything else. He smiled at the priest and said, “I have orangutan arms!”

At least the pope didn’t have to endure that.

I’m writing against two deadlines right now, but wanted to direct you toward some pretty remarkable stuff you’ll want to read.

First up, don’t miss Marcia Morrissey’s latest column. In this season of gratitude and the ponderings of Advent, she writes about the way our lives seem to arc in a perfect trajectory, if we really look at things and how they work out. There are a lot of valuable lessons in her piece.

Then, let me introduce you to a writer whose work I just love: he is charming, smart and insightful, and he doesn’t see things the way the rest of us do: check out Joseph Susanka’s Through a Lens, Darkly.

There are few writers who have written so clearly or so well about the art of cinematic interpretation as has that charmingly blunt hillbilly Thomist, Mary Flannery O’Connor.

It might seem counter-intuitive to search for insights on understanding film among the essays and lectures of a fiction writer — and a short-story writer, at that. But in her essay, “The Grotesque in Southern Fiction,” O’Connor reminds her fellow authors (and storytelling artists of any stripe) of an incredibly important insight regarding story and its motivations — an insight they would do well to keep in mind, no matter what their medium.

“that charmingly blunt hillbilly Thomist…” I think O’ Connor would have adored that. I certainly do.

Heather King: Her blog is rapidly becoming a daily must-read for me! Today, Advent; Work and Life of Kenzaburo Oe:

Back in 1963, Ōe’s wife, Yukari, was pregnant. Doctors advised the couple that the baby would be severely developmentally and physically disabled, and urged them to abort. They chose otherwise, and their son Hikari was born. He was visually impaired, epileptic, and possibly autistic. He did not speak.

For a writer, a more unpromising son that Hikari could scarcely have been imagined. This is no sentimental, faux-tender call to pretend we adore the handicapped. We would not adore them nearly so much if we had to live with and take care of them. Ōe has written of Hikari’s abysmal oral hygeine, his bad breath, his immovable bulk, the years of laboriously accompanying him to the special school via bus and train–hours that could have been spent writing, producing–and then the same trip again in the afternoon to fetch him back.

Read this entire, fascinating, moving piece.

If your heart can take it: Now read “Where’s Molly?”

Put on the religious breaks for the political:
Bookworm on the Wikileaks

An Advent challenge, of sorts: I was Ignorant and You Taught Me

The question they never ask Buddhists: Does Celibacy Still Have Value?

A partial answer

I like this piece by Ross Douthat. A lot..

The Hitchens/Blair Debate: Austen Ivereigh asks why Tony Blair did not defend the church’s record. I certainly agree that Blair’s Catholicism seems “to permeate none of his thinking.”

Mere Religiosity

Gallileo: The Astronomer’s Faith

In depth Eric Hoffer

A new Habit of Witness entry. More on that, anon!

OSV: Vatican Flubs Media Relations

Back on Politics and Wikileaks: Spengler. Scathing. Some might say “way harsh.” Made me wince.

Also leaked: CIA did not expect a Pope Benedict XVI:

I wonder if I want to stay away from politics altogether during Advent.

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  • Rhinestone Suderman

    A very sad story, about poor Molly.

    Honestly, I think they should have sent that mom away, instead!

    (Uncharitable, and I’m sorry, but you have to wonder about a “parent” like that.)

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    I wonder if the attitude towards retarded children then—lock ‘em up and forget about them—wasn’t an offshoot of the eugenics movement, which suppsoedly had been rejected by the 50′s.

    It also makes me worry about what we might expect under Obamacare.

  • Maureen

    Actually, I was just reading the other day about how in South Korea, there were BIG fights (post-WWII) between the celibate Buddhist monks and the married Buddhist priests. All the way to your classic monk vs monk mob fighting and temple takeovers (as seen also in China and Japan), but spiced up with politicians getting into it and secret imprisonments. One of the factions was heavily Japanese influenced and Zen-ish, and had been supported by Japan during their long occupation of Korea. The other was more influenced by Korean animism, Confucianism, and native Buddhist traditions. I can’t remember which faction was which, but I guess it was a real hot button for years and years.

  • Mandy P.

    Rhinestone, the same attitude has evolved into it being socially acceptable to abort a child who may be handicapped. Although I don’t think the eugenics movement ever went away. The target was shifted and the movement was renamed something snappier- like “reproductive rights”. So sad that we aren’t more loving towards those who need us most.

    The little boy crawling towards the Pope was just darling! And it makes me feel a little better about the degree to which I succeed in getting my kids to sit still during Mass. With a pre-schooler and an infant, it seems that I have a choice between quiet or still but never both; I always settle for quiet.

  • http://sue-livingandlearning.blogspot.com/ Sue

    Thank you so much for posting the story about Oe Kenzaburo. I have lived in Japan for 16 years, and know of him, of course, but I had somehow missed the story about his son. Our third child is autistic, with very limited speech, and that article moved me to tears. I am going to get a hold of some of those books, ASAP!

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Mandy, I think you’re right—eugenics never went away, it just got better PR, and snappier slogans. And, yes, there’s a lot of animosity towards less than perfect kids.

    Maureen, the Orthodox church has married priests and celibate monks—and some celibate Bishops; there’s friction sometimes, but they haven’t come to blows yet (thank Heaven!)

  • Old Fan

    Great links – thanks.

    Can you believe Christmas is around the corner?

    I have great hopes for a New Year for all.

    Reviewed some of the Wiki Dump-Link – Amazing.

    The Clinton Order about “DNA” spying and such is very interesting. Wow – Simply wow.

    Why does it all remind me of the old illegally obtaining FBI files on political opponents.

    I hear many trying to suggest this is standard, but it doesn’t quite wash. I don’t think some making these type of biometric ‘orders’ would be foolish enough to put this type of thing on a wire, paper, digital, etc.

    None of it is “smart power”.

    “United Nations official says US order to diplomats to glean intelligence on UN leadership may breach international law”

    If this was revealed to have happened under a Republican Administration – a Republican Run State Department, the MSM would be calling for the removal of the Secretary of State. Especially with North Korea waging war, and Iran growing into a NUKE power.

    Just another day in the realm of “Hope and Change”.

  • Old Fan

    PS: GREAT photo and story with Buster.

    “I have orangutan arms!”

  • Susan

    Just wanted to confirm something you already knew… Buster is adorable. :)